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How times have changed

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The dark was overwhelming. Bright flashes of light blinked in and out of his vision. Angry faces appear inches from his face and he tries to get away but something is restricting that. Saws and other metal instruments appear, making his heart beat anxiously. The sight of the needle coming menacingly closer is too much and Steve wakes with a gasp. Bolting upright in bed he pants and takes in his surroundings. The sweaty sheets are tangled around his legs and shafts of sunlight are illuminating the familiar sight of his room. Focusing on these surroundings, he tries to calm his breathing and push the dream out of his head.

Collapsing back on the pillows he counts each breath in and out. Staring at the ceiling, he looks for the cobwebs hanging down and promises himself to get a duster later on in the day. Contemplating the list of cleaning jobs he needs to do to keep the house decent, he is startled out of it when the sound of footsteps on the tiles downstairs reaches him. Leaping out of bed he grabs his bat from under the bed and cautiously creeps out of his room. Leaning around the door frame he scans the corridor and stairs for signs of life. Seeing nothing, he slowly edges down the stairs. Hearing footsteps coming his way he takes a deep breath and leaps around the corner, raising the bat threateningly.

A high pitched scream is emitted at this threat and he lowers the bat as he takes in the sight of his mother standing in the hallway. "Steve!" She shrieks and the heavy stomp of his father is heard. "What on earth do you think you're doing, scaring your mother like that?" He shouts, getting up in Steve's face and pulling the bat from his hands. "You could do some real damage with something like this! It's not some toy you know." His father criticises. "Aw baby what happened to your face?" His mother asks acting concerned, she grabs his chin and twists his face around to examine the bruises. Steve tries not to flinch as her acrylic nails dig into his skin. "Doesn't matter." Steve mutters pulling his face out of her grasp. "You look like someone beat the crap out of you." His father sneers, to which Steve just grunts and turns away heading back towards the stairs. "Do not walk away from me." His father shouts grabbing onto Steve's arm. "What do you care?" Steve shouts back. "What happened to my son? I used to actually be proud of you and now look at you." His father scoffs, eyeing Steve up and down disappointedly. The words are like a punch to the gut, but he swallows and then looks his father in the eyes. "I don't want you to be proud of me then, because unlike before I actually quite like myself at the moment." Steve spits back at him, pulling his arm out of his grasp and marching up the stairs trying to ignore his father swearing insults at his back.

He makes it until his door is slammed closed behind him till he collapsed against it, sinking to the floor, sobs racking his body. He pulls his knees close to his chest, trying to ground himself in something, anything. Time drags on and it feels like forever before he can suck in a breath and feel somewhat in control again. As soon as he can, he grabs the nearest clothes off his floor and dresses. Taking a deep breath he opens his door, grabs his shoes and car keys from the bowl and he's out the front door.

The rev of the engine is comforting and he turns the stereo up loud till he can't hear the thoughts yelling in his head. He drives around aimlessly and gets a few horns honked in his direction from his lack of attention. After a while the streets look familiar again and he realises with a start that he's ended up outside Robin's house. Cutting the engine leaves a deafening silence that he can't stand so he stumbles out of the car and up towards her door. He knocks on the door and realises if her mother answers the door he is in no fit state to make conversation.

The door swings open and he lets out a sob of relief when Robins sleepy face appears on the other side. "Steve?" She asks worriedly "What are you doing here? It's like six am." Suddenly coming here feels like a mistake and he takes a step back. "Fuck is it? I'm sorry, it's fine, I'll go, don't worry about it." He stutters out and starts to stumble back towards the car. "Hey dingus! That's not what I meant." She calls out to him, running down the path after him. "Are you okay?" She asks softly once she's stood in front of him. "No." Steve murmurs and suddenly feels all the morning's emotions surge up again and just sobs, falling into her open arms and clutching at her like a lifeline. "Shhh it's gonna be okay." She whispers  comfortingly.

"Okay let me grab some clothes and then we'll go out somewhere, have some fun?" She says once he's calmed down again, making him realise that she's stood out here in the street in her sleep wear. "Yea." He says with a weak laugh. "Come on then." Robin says gesturing towards the house and striding in. "What about your parents? I can wait in the car it's fine" Steve asks worriedly, eyes scanning the house for signs of them. "They'll be fast asleep, we'll be in and out before they're up." Robin says confidently, lacing her fingers in Steve's and pulling him inside. "Oh yea, like you were I suppose?" He whispers as he's pulled up the stairs towards her room. The silence drags out for a second too long. "I was already awake." She says like its not a big deal. "Nightmares?" He asks softly and she just murmurs in agreement.

They make it into her room without incident and she goes round collecting clothes out of drawers and the wardrobe, while Steve watches awkwardly. "Turn around then. God, I thought you were a gentleman." Robin grumbles lightheartedly. "Ha ha you're hilarious." Steve snarks back, but turns around anyway. He stares at the posters up on her walls (at least the ones he can see without turning around) and the little ornaments and momentos scattered around. Her room feels like a home. "Right, let's go." She says tapping him on the shoulder. "Do you need to tell your parents?" He asks and she grimaces. "Eugh, I should probably leave a note or something." She says distractly while searching around for some paper and a pen.

They make it to the downstairs hall, before they both froze at the sound of movement upstairs. When an upstairs door opens they race out of the house, giggling as they go. Clambering into the car, they make their escape and for the first time all morning they both feel okay, even if it is only temporary.

Chapter Text

Time was dragging on. Steve had already swept the floor, faced up the shelves and was now counting down the minutes till he could lock the door and cash up. Robin had left nearly an hour ago, being on a shorter shift today, as she was going out for a meal with her family for her grandfather's birthday. The bell rings and he intently hates whoever is coming into the store five minutes before closing. 

"Steve! You are still here, I wasn't sure if I was going to catch you." Joyce says hurrying up to him. "Hi Mrs Byers." Steve says with a smile, relieved that it wasn't going to be an annoying customer. "I've told you before it's Joyce dear." She corrects fondly and Steve laughs. "How have you been?" She asks and he shrugs "Alright I guess." She looks intently at him and he knows she's taking in the fading but still very present bruises and the dark bags under his eyes. "Really?" She asks softly. "Well okay, I guess I haven't been sleeping brilliantly lately." He admits and she grimaces understandingly and squeezes his hand. "You can always come to me about anything you know. I'm here for you Steve." She says and it hits him that his own mother has never once made him feel this mothered. "Thanks." He replies softly. "How about you?" He asks cautiously and he can see the surge of emotion on her face and regrets bringing it up. "It's been tough," she says with a sniff and blinks away tears "but you needn't worry about me, I'll be fine." She says positively and Steve smiles, impressed at her resilience.

"Anyway, god I'm taking up your time and I've only got a ten minute break myself." She says starting to ramble.  "What can I do for you?" Steve asks amused. "Well please don't feel under pressure to say yes, but I'm working till late tonight and so is Jonathon, as he's back at his internship with the newspaper, so Will would be home alone. I know it's been a year but what with everything recently, l worry and I know he gets anxious on his own in that house sometimes. So really I was wondering if you could keep him company for a bit? I'd pay you of course! Not much, we can't afford it but it's…" she rambles. "That's not a problem Mrs Byers." Steve says interrupting her, knowing she would carry on for much longer than necessary. "You would? Oh you are a lifesaver Steve!" She says happily pulling him into a hug. "Also don't worry about the money, it's not like I'd be doing anything else tonight." Steve assures her. "Oh I wouldn't expect that from you." She says and then glances up at the clock, "Shit I need to get back really." Steve glances up too, realising the store can now be closed so he can lock up and get the hell out. "Don't worry, I'll head over once I've locked up here okay?" He reassures her. "Thank you so much!" She says and with a last wave she hurries back out to get back to her store. Steve yawns and stretches, then walks over to the door, flicking the sign to closed and locking it. Cashing up only takes another five or ten minutes as it's been a quiet day and then he's out and makes his way to the Byers household. 

He drives along the roads carefully, as it's a bit of a bumpy track and he cannot afford to kill his suspension. He parks up next to the house and sees the lights on through the curtains. He trudges up to the door and knocks. He waits for a few minutes with no response. "Who is it?" A timid voice calls out. "Hey buddy it's Steve." He calls out and hears the chain moving and the bolt being undone. "Hey Steve." Will says and opens the door wider to let him inside. "How you doing?" Steve asks while Will locks the door behind him. "Fine." Will replies and they both stand there awkwardly for a minute, unsure how to proceed. "I'm guessing your Mom told you I was coming over?" He asks. "Yea she phoned." Will replies and Steve internally groans, he's used to chatty kids like Dustin. His stomach grumbles and he glances at his watch. "Have you eaten?" Steve asks, praying he says no so he has something to do. Will shakes his head and Steve thanks whatever god is in his favour tonight. "Mom thought she'd be back in time." Will clarifies. "Ah, she doing overtime then?" Steve asks, moving into the kitchen and Will nods.

"Okay then. Dinner. What do you fancy?" Steve asks, scanning the kitchen and considering what he could make. Will shrugs, "What can you cook?" He asks, eyeing him up doubtfully. "This lack of faith is very hurtful Will." Steve jokes and starts rummaging in cupboards for supplies. "Ooh how about Sloppy Joes?" Steve asks and Will grins "Definitely." So Steve starts piling the ingredients on the counter. "You got a radio around here? Have some music while we cook?" He asks hopefully and Will nods heading into the other room to grab it. Once that's playing, he's starting to feel a bit more at home and comfortable. "Right can I trust you to peel these nicely?" He asks handing some vegetables and a grater to Will. "Course. Easy peasy." He says and picks up the grater, beginning carefully. 

They quickly fall into an easy rhythm and Steve starts humming and swaying along to the latest hits playing. He notices Will sniggering and gives him a look before launching into an enthusiastic rendition of Uptown Girl, making Will burst out laughing giving Steve a surge of pride. Soon everything is cooking and most of the awkwardness is gone between them. 

Once the food is served up, they sit at the table and Will looks warily at the plate. "It won't bite you, you know." Steve says through a mouthful of food. Cautiously he takes a bite and clearly decides it is in fact edible as he begins shoveling the rest into his mouth. "Wow you actually can cook." Will says sounding very surprised. "Course I can!" Steve says indignantly, food flying everywhere "but only for people I like, so don't go around telling everyone." He says conspiratorially, making Will giggle. 

Once their plates are licked clean, they decide to get one of the old board games out and sprawl out on the floor with it. It's about halfway through the game, when there's a knock on the door "Will? Mom? I'm home." Jonathon calls through the door and Will leaps up to let him in. "Hey!" Will says pulling him into a hug. "Hey buddy. Where's Mom?" He asks, which is when Steve pops up from lying on the floor. "Working overtime, so you got me instead." He says. Jonathon spins around at the sound of his voice, looking shocked. "Oh." He says. "Steve's been keeping me company." Will tells him happily. "Okay… well you don't need to stick around now that I'm back." Jonathon tells him and Steve just shrugs. "It's fine, we've still got a game to finish haven't we?" Steve says and Will runs back over to the board. Jonathon looks wary at him, but Steve gives him a slight smile reassuringly. "Alright, I'll be in my room then." Jonathon says and Steve nods, going back over to Will. 

Once his door had closed Steve looked at Will, "I don't think your brother likes me." He says. Will looks deep in thought for a minute, then looks up at Steve intently. "I don't know. I just think you two have a lot of history." He says. "Ha! That's an understatement. I don't blame him, like I can't forgive what I did how can I expect him to?" Steve says, sounding like he'd given up any hope a long time ago. "Have you ever asked him?" Will asks. "What?" Steve asks surprised. "Have you actually said 'I'm sorry, can you forgive me?'" Will asks looking at Steve like he was a complete idiot, which he thinks may be true if he's getting advice from twelve year olds. If only he didn't have such a good point. "Okay maybe not in those words." Steve admits reluctantly. "Do it then. Jonathon's not perfect, he'll understand. But you can't just assume he knows what you're thinking." Will says, sounding much older than he is. "You really are Will the Wise aren't you?" Steve says grinning and Will just beams at him. "Go on then." Will says shooing him away. "Now?" Steve says panicked and Will just nods laughing at him.

Steve reluctantly clambers up, trying to work himself up into actually going and talking to him. He could feel the sweat on his palms but he knew he couldn't back down now. His stomach was fluttering, but he still knocked on Jonathan's door. "Yea?" He calls from inside and taking a deep breath, Steve pushes open the door. Jonathon has since changed into comfy, casual clothes rather than his smart work outfit and was sat on the bed. "Everything okay?" Jonathon asks looking confused at his presence. "Yeah, I just… can we talk?" Steve asks awkwardly. "Okay?" Jonathon says warily and shuffles across the bed to make space for Steve to sit. He awkwardly perches on the edge of the bed and the silence is deafening, he just can't get the words out. Jonathon flicks his eyes nervously from watching Steve to looking anywhere else in his room. 

"So I have been reflecting on certain things recently and I guess I never properly apologized for everything that I did back before… you know, everything happened. I was an asshole and I really hate myself for some of the things I said to you. So I am sorry, and I hope that you might be able to forgive me at some point?" Steve says staring at his feet and twiddling his fingers nervously. There is a heavy pause where Jonathon doesn't say anything and Steve can just hear the blood pounding in his ears. "Thanks, Steve." He says softly and Steve finally looks up and meets his eyes. "If I could do anything to change it I would, I swear." He says and honestly means it. Jonathon smiles, then looks serious again. "Look I made my own share of mistakes, like that evening with Nancy… I was fucking wrong and I may have apologized to her for that but it wasn't just her there, so I'm sorry too." He admits and it's incredibly awkward but a weight feels lifted now that it's all out in the open. "Okay how about this? It doesn't look like either of us are getting out of this shithole of a town anytime soon, so what if we started fresh? A blank slate so to speak?" Steve suggests, praying that he will agree because surprisingly, he really doesn't want to keep avoiding Jonathon. "I think… that it's worth trying?" Jonathon says cautiously and Steve grins, feeling the relief flood through him. "Yeah?" Steve says with a slight smirk. "I guess you're not that bad now." Jonathon teases, bumping his shoulder against his. "High praise from the great Jonathon Byers!" Steve cries clutching at his heart dramatically and Jonathan just shakes his head with a smile, "Idiot." He says and it comes out almost fondly. "Ah, but you still like me!" Steve says and Jonathon scoffs "I did not say that!" But there's no stopping Steve's grin now. "Maybe not in those words but I can read between the lines." Steve teases and Jonathon shoves him, which only makes him laugh harder. "Someones got his ego back." He says. 

By the time Joyce gets back from her shift at work, the three of them are sprawled on the floor all very competitively playing Frustration. "I'm home." She calls out as she locks the door behind her. "Hey Mom!" Will says brightly. "Hi dear." She replies. "How was work Mom?" Jonathon asks and she shrugs, "Long, you know, but it was fine." She tells him and looks over to them. "Steve!" She says surprised "You didn't have to stay this late dear." Steve smiles nervously. "I told him that don't worry Mom." Jonathon says looking over at Steve with a smirk. "You just wanted to get rid of me." Steve says teasingly and Jonathon just shrugs with a grin. Joyce looks between them worriedly, but clearly decides it's all friendly. "Alright, well you boys have fun then." She says and they get back to their game, as they were in no rush for the evening to end. 

Chapter Text

Steve was sloached at the counter, mechanically sticking prices on the newly arrived videos, when Robin calls over to him from the video stacks "Hey Dingus! Your kids are out here."

Steve leaps up excitedly and hurrys around the counter, completely ignoring the stack of videos he knocked off in the process. "Henderson!" He calls out, met by an equally loud hello. Dustin and Steve jump about excitedly carrying out their long series of fist bumps and handshakes.

"Hey! We're here too dude!" Mike says indignantly, standing by the door with Will and Lucas.

"I'm getting there alright." Steve grumbles, but still goes over and enthusiastically high fives them all.

"Wow, I cannot believe you were ever considered cool." Robin states watching the welcomes with amusement.

"I'm still cool!" Steve says defensively and Robin just looks at him in disbelief.

"Idiot." She says fondly.

"Don't worry dude, I think your cool." Dustin tell him, patting his back sympathetically.

"Not that we don't appreciate your company but did you want something?" Robin asks the group.

"We just want to browse your collection, actually." Mike sasses back and the teenagers spread out among the stacks, rummaging through the shelves.

"This one?" Lucas asks holding a video up.

"Man we watched that one last week." Dustin whines.

"What about this one instead?" Mike asks after removing most of the videos on the shelf from their rightful positions.

"That one's lame." Lucas criticizes.

"I like it." Will says quietly.

"Fine,  I guess we can watch that one if you really want." Lucas agrees reluctantly.

The group congregates back at the counter with their chosen film and Dustin slams the box down in front of them. "So… Steve." He starts and Steve sighs.

"What do you want." Steve asks, knowing full well what they're going to ask for. 

Dustin grins. "You know that we are but poor children, in need of entertainment over this long summer." He says, to which Steve and Robin share a look.

"You want freebies don't you." Robin says, cutting short Dustin's drawn out sob story.

"Well I guess you could put it like that." Dustin says reluctantly.

"Anyone would think you only hang out with me for my employee privileges." Steve accuses jokingly.

"Of course not!" Mike and Lucas say defensively, while Will shuffles nervously.

"Where else would I get advice on girls and hair styling without you my man!" Dustin says causing Steve to grin.

"Man you need better sources of advice than Dingus here." Robin jokes.

"Stop trying to steal my children Rob!" Steve accuses.

"I'm not!" She says holding her hands up.

"Don't worry Robin, we love you too." Dustin says reassuringly.

"Aww thanks bro." Robin says high fiving him over the counter.

"So can we have the film?" Mike asks bluntly.

"Fine, fine, we'll pretend it's still here BUT you have to bring it back tomorrow." Steve tells them.

"Yes!" Mike cries, high fiving Lucas and Dustin.

"Thanks man." Dustin says grinning as they all turn to leave.

"Come on then, back to mine." Mike says putting his arm around Will's shoulders and leading them all out of the store.

Robin scans the mess left after the group's brief appearance in the store. "Guess I'll tidy up your children's mess then." She says resigned to the job.

"Our children now." Steve corrects.

"What are we married or something?" Robin asks.

"Of course not, you're not my type," he jokes "but you are nominated babysitter now." Causing Robin to just groan but Steve spots the smile she's trying to hide.

Whiles she's tidying the shelves, Steve sets about picking up the videos off the floor, with only minor grumbling. *Knock* *knock* "Anyone there?" A guys voice says from above him, knuckles knocking on the top of the desk. He jumps up in surprise hitting his head on the bottom of the desk.

"Shit." He swore under his breath.

"You okay there man?" The man says sounding amused.

"Yeah yeah, sorry. How can I help?" Steve says running the back of his head as he stands up. Taking in the sporty looking guy and admiring the definition of the muscles in his arms stood in front of him.

"Returning this." He says handing over a video.

"Enjoy it?" Steve asks fiddling with the video case in his hands.

"Sure, it was good." He replies. Steve tried to figure out what else to say but he doesn't have a clue what the film is about and is feeling a bit tongue tied for some reason. The guy pushes his hair back out of his eyes and he can't help but watch and wishes he looked like him.

"..that all you need?" The guy asks confused at his silence.

"Ooh yea, sorry, you're all sorted." Steve hurries out and feels his cheeks go red with embarrassment.

"Right." The guy says unconvinced, then grabs a pen off the pot next to Steve and scribbles something down on the back of his receipt. "Just in case you decide you do need something else." He says with a wink. Then saunters out of the store, leaving Steve staring at the scribbled phone number in his hand.

After staring at the door for an embarrassing length of time, he shoves the paper in his pocket and gets back to work. "Eugh, that guy that was just in, winked at me on the way out, like god not every girl is into guys like you" Robin complains, jumping up onto the counter top and grabbing a lolly from their pot of goodies.

"Or any guys." Steve says distractedly.

"Exactly, like that's not cool when you're working, as you can't leave," she rants "or swear at them." She adds.

"Since when has company policy stopped you insulting people?" Steve jokes and she just shakes her head.

"Not my point." She says at which point Steve's finished his stack so leans back on the chair.

"I don't think he was into you anyway." Steve adds and she glares at him. 

"Why would you say that?" She demands and Steve looks panicked.

"Why does it matter? You're not into him." He asks hoping to distract her from her question.

Robin looks around the store, making sure it's still empty. "Okay. Just because I'm a lesbian doesn't mean guys can't find me attractive, that is not how it works dingus." She says starting to sound pissed off.

"That wasn't what I was thinking!" Steve hurries to correct her.

"Then why?" She asks and he sighs.

"Because I'm pretty sure he was hitting on me." Steve mumbles embarrassed.

"WHAT?" She squealed.

"Calm down, it's not a big deal." Steve says trying to quieten her down.

"Okay. Maybe he was just being friendly?" She questions and he shakes his head and pulls the receipt out of his pocket and passes it over to her.

"Yeah okay he was hitting on you." She admits grinning down at him.

"See, so not gonna be interested in you." Steve says hoping to get the conversation onto a different topic.

"Not necessarily, he could be bisexual?" She contemplates, swinging her legs in thought, but then looks at Steve's blank face and sighs. "Ah you still have much to learn, my young Padawan" She quotes wisely.

"What's ...bisexual?" Steve asks cautiously.

"Bisexual, is when someone is attracted to both men and women." She explains and Steve nods along, feeling the relief of a question being answered that he wasn't even aware he was asking. 

Chapter Text

"So your father informs me that the conference was very informative and interesting, of course most of it goes over my head. You know what I'm like dear! But anyway, we did get quite cosy with some very influential business partners and they were just about to go out to their country house, and can you believe? They only invited us to join them! It was an opportunity we couldn't miss. He's very successful and she is very well connected socially, so this could be the beginning of something wonderful! If you were here you could have gotten to know their daughter, I'm sure she'd be easily charmed. Very sweet girl, bit plain but what can you do. Anyway, where was I? Oh yea, so we're going to be gone another week or two at least. So I've called the agency and told them to send a cleaner round tomorrow dear, so make sure you keep an eye on her, I can never completely trust people like that. You'd better not have been having parties while we've been gone, what would the neighbours think! We have a reputation to uphold. So you be a good boy and we'll see you when we get back okay? Love you. Mwah." Steve's mother says hanging up the phone. 

"Bye mom." Steve murmurs into the now disconnected line and slams the phone back into its holder. The phone rings again and Steve reflexively grabs it. "Yeah?" He asks voice sounding much to hopeful. 

"Okay that was weirdly quick, what are you just sitting by the phone waiting in the off chance I might call you? That's obsessive even for you dingus." Robin's familiar voice says down the line and his stomach drops. Of course she's not calling back. He should know better by now. 

"I thought you were my mom." Steve says softly. 

"Oh, well, nevermind, you get me instead. I'm much more fun." She says supportively. 

"Yea. So what can I do for you Rob?" He asks, pushing down the feeling of rejection. 

"Oh. Erm well. Are you doing anything now?" She asks, suddenly sounding less confident.

"Not a thing. Why?" He asks and there's a pause. 

"Can I come over?" She asks cautiously "Just, my parents are just like sat in front of the TV watching Dallas and criticizing my life choices and lack of a boyfriend. It's kind of driving me nuts." She explains all in a rush. 

"Sure, I could do with the distraction." Steve says, glad to actually have something to do for the rest of the evening. 

"Thanks. See you soon then." She says.

"See you soon." He replies and they hang up. 

At the prospect of company he looks around and cringes. He wanders around the house clearing up some of the dirty crockery and glasses, and kicks some of the dirty clothes out of the way. The place is looking a bit more respectable by the time he hears the doorbell go. He opens the door to see Robin holding her bike and awkwardly scuffing her shoes on the ground. "Hey." He says and she looks up and grins.

"Does it matter where I leave this?" She asks gesturing to her bike. 

"Nah, not like anyone else is here." He says, so she leans it against the wall and heads inside. 

"God boys are gross." She says looking around the living room. 

"Rude, I tidied up specially for you." Steve says.

"Okay well somehow that makes this worse." She says gesturing around at the mess. 

"You invited yourself here so really it's your own fault." He jokes and she just rolls her eyes, collapsing onto the sofa anyway. Steve just laughs then joins her, making himself comfy by throwing his legs over her lap. She glares at him for this but doesn't bother pushing him off. "Tough day?" Steve asks and Robin just groans, flopping her head back against the cushions. 

"I know they only want what's best for me, but their idea of the perfect life is a quaint suburban house with a husband, two point five children and maybe a dog. Like I want to see the world, experience it, and none of that includes any of that." She says gesturing vaguely in front of her. 

"Nah I mean you're definitely a cat person." Steve says with a straight face and Robin just bursts out laughing. 

"I'll have to sit them down and break the news to them. Mom, Dad, I'm sorry, but I want a cat. I've always been a cat person and that's never going to change." She says sniggering the whole way through. The giggling subsides a bit and she sobers up a bit, "So what's going on with your parents anyway?" She asks.

"They got invited to Mr and Mrs fancy's country house, which was an opportunity they just couldn't miss." He says in a high pitched voice, meant to mimic his mother's. 

"How long will they be gone?" She asks.

Steve shrugs "A week? Two? Three? Who knows." A somber silence falls on the two of them as they contemplate their parents failings. 

"Fuck them!" Robin says loudly, startling Steve as she slaps her hands down on his legs.

"Ow!" He cries but she ignores him. 

"Why should we sit here and mope, when we should be having fun and actually living our lives!" She says enthusiastically and looks at Steve for his agreement. 

"How?" He asks warily.

"Oh come on, 'King Steve' you definitely know how to have fun with an empty house and no parents." She says and he flinches slightly at the old nickname but then brightens when he realises what she's suggesting.

"Are you implying we should raid my dad's liquor cabinet and get drunk?" He asks grinning conspiratorially. 

"Most definitely." Robin agrees.

"Let's do it!" Steve says leaping up from the sofa, almost knocking Robin to the floor in his enthusiasm. Robin laughs and quickly stumbles after him.

***

A piercing ringing sound drills into her brain even with a pillow held tightly over her head. A brief pause gives her a blissful moment of peace, but then it starts over again, so she throws the pillow off and sits up, much too sharply if her stomach has any say in it. She stumbles out of bed in search of the noise so she can shut it up. The stairs are a challenge but she makes it down to the living room, where Steve is still passed out on the sofa. She realises it must be the doorbell that's driving her nuts, so she nudges Steve hoping to wake him up. He groans and then immediately rolls back over, looking dead to the world. "God do I have to do everything around here." She mutters to herself, grabbing a hoodie off the floor and putting it on with a grimace. 

She swings open the door and glares at whoever is disturbing her plans to lie in bed and regret ever drinking with Steve Harrington of all people. Standing in the doorway is a guy about her own age, that she vaguely recognizes as Jonathon. He looks startled at her presence and goes to say something but closes his mouth again. "What?" She asks grumpily. 

Jonathon takes a step back, eyes wide. "I… erm… wanted to talk to Steve? Sorry, I've got work soon so I couldn't come round later." He asks cautiously and she can tell he's eyeing up her appearance and making assumptions.

"Alright, I'll see if I can wake him up." She says, confused as to what he could possibly want Steve for, given what she knows about their shared history. "STEVE!" She yells from the door and hears the resulting crash as he falls off the sofa in surprise.

"Please be quiet." Steve says clutching at his head. 

"He's up." She says grinning at a startled Jonathon. 

"What do you want?" Steve calls back. 

"Put some clothes on and come to the door." She calls back. It takes a couple minutes but then Steve stumbles into the hall, clearly pulling a pair of sweatpants on, but having forgotten or not bothered about a shirt. 

His hair is spiky and it's the messiest she's ever seen it, so she can't help but laugh. "Shut up." He mutters at her, then looks up and scrunches up his face in confusion. "Jonathon?" He asks rubbing his eyes, to clear the sleep from them.

"Hey." Jonathon says awkwardly. 

"Look I'm gonna go and have a shower okay? You sort whatever this is out." Robin says gesturing between the two of them. 

"Hmm? Oh sure, help yourself." Steve says distractedly. Steve yawns and then looks at Jonathon expectantly. "You wanted to talk to me?" He asks holding back a laugh at Jonathon's flushed face. 

"Yea, so erm Mom's working most of the day and I have plans after work, so Will would be on his on his own again, so I guess we were wondering if you could come over again?" Jonathon asks clearly avoiding eye contact with Steve "But if you have plans then I mean it's fine I don't want to intrude." He quickly adds, glancing in the house towards where Robin had wandered off to.

"I think it should be fine?" Steve says non committedly, then scrunches up his face in thought, "Although something is niggling at me." He says mainly just thinking out loud. 

While he's thinking, a car pulls up to the house and a middle aged woman gets out with a bucket of cleaning supplies. "Harrington?" The woman asks walking up them. 

"Yea?" He answers confused and she looks impatient. 

"I'm the cleaner? I believe your mother called us?" She says and Steve finally remembers the conversation with his mother yesterday and nods. 

He moves out of the way of the door and she purposefully walks into the house, but then Steve turns around suddenly "Oh by the way! Don't do the bathroom yet, my friend's having a shower in there." He tells her and she gives him a disapproving look, but nods. 

"Okay so when would Will want company?" Steve asks turning back to Jonathon, who clearly looks slightly stunned. 

"He's at Mike's till about 2, but then they're going to their grandma's or something, so from about then?" Jonathon says, his tone slightly less friendly than before. 

"Right… What time is it now?" Steve asks and Jonathon rolls his eyes at him. 

"About half ten." He says glancing at his watch. 

"Yeah? Okay two will be fine then. I can pick him up from Mike's if that's easiest?" Steve agrees, planning out what he's got to do for the day. Jonathon looks unsure for a minute and clearly eyes up the state he is in. 

After slight consideration he concedes. "Yeah okay, if that's no trouble." He says.

 Steve grins "Awesome." 

Jonathon glances at his watch again and swore under his breath. "Look thanks, I've really got to get to work now though." He says all in a hurry. 

"Alright, see you later then." Steve says, slightly unsure as to why he's feeling a nervous fluttering in his stomach at the thought. Shaking that weird feeling off he waves at Jonathan as he drives off and let's out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding once the door is securely closed behind him. 

Chapter Text

Steve pulls up to the Wheeler's house at dead on two. He walks up the house and walks up to the door, feeling a lot better than he did when he was rudely woken up this morning. He'd dropped Robin home on the way, who was not looking forward to facing her mother and explaining where she was last night. He didn't envy her that conversation. He knocks on the door and waits, although he can hear voices and movement inside. The door swings open, revealing Nancy Wheeler and they both freeze in surprise. "Steve." Nancy greets awkwardly. 

"Hey Nance." He greets, feeling very stupid for not considering that he might see her here, as it is her house too. 

Nancy's mother comes round the corner and gasps. "Oh Steve! Been a long time." She says peering over Nancy's shoulder at him. "Although I hope you're not trying to win her back, she's already got a date tonight!" She jokes. 

Nancy's eyes widen "Mom!" She exclaims, turning around to glare at her. 

Steve just chuckles awkwardly, "Actually, I'm here to pick up Will?" 

Which just makes makes her look confused. "Why?" She asks and Steve awkwardly shuffles. 

"I said I'd look after him while his Mom's at work and Jonathan is out." He says glancing at Nancy, who quickly looks away. 

"Ooh of course! I'll go get him." Her Mom says heading towards the basement, leaving him and Nancy standing awkwardly together. 

"So… how've you been?" He asks and she smiles. 

"Alright thanks, been looking at potential colleges to apply to." She says. 

"Nice, they'll be lucky to have you." He tells her, shoving his hands into his pockets.

The boys run up from the basement, ending their conversation. "Hey Steve!" They both say in greeting and he grins at them both. 

"Ready to go then Will?" Steve asks and he nods. 

"Bye Mike." Will says. 

"We still on for the weekend?" Mike asks.

Will nods, "Should be." He says. Mike pulls him into a hug and Steve nods to Nancy in goodbye. 

Once in the car, his music starts playing loudly, so he quickly turns it down so he doesn't deafen him. "Sorry." Steve says awkwardly. 

"It's fine, Jonathan plays them loud as well." Will says, fingers tapping along to the song.

Steve gasps. "Jonathan likes Wham? I thought they'd be too mainstream for him?" Steve asks with a big grin. 

Will grins shyly. "Don't tell him I told you." He says sneakily and Steve laughs. 

"His secret is safe with me." He says miming zipping his lips. They both sing along to the songs, some more accurately than others,  while Steve drives. Before they know it, they've pulled in and are at the house. 

Steve grabs his backpack from the back seat, locks the car and then waits by the door as Will rummages about in his bag for his house key. "Aha." He eventually exclaims holding out the key proudly. 

"Nice to know we're not locked out." Steve says grinning at him, as Will unlocks the door letting them both in. "Alright so I came prepared this time." Steve says, dropping his backpack onto the table and unzipping it. He pulls out a copy of Star Wars and a bag of popcorn, "You interested?" He asks waving the two in front of Will temptingly. 

"Yes!" Will says leaping up and grabbing the popcorn out of his hands and running over to the sofa.

"Thought you might be." Steve says wandering over to the TV more sedately. They quickly settle in watching the film, with the bag of popcorn between them. 

"Eugh I don't like the Ewoks." Will complains when they come onto screen. 

"What! But they're so cute." Steve exclaims and Will just stares at him unimpressed before going back to the film.  "Man, just look at his hair. He looks good." Steve says, not noticing the strange look Will gives him. "What's the actor called again?" Steve continues. 

Will just looks at him in disbelief. "Harrison Ford!" He exclaims and Steve nods.

"Much better than that Luke guy's hair, that has no body whatsoever." He complains. 

"That Luke guy?! Have you even been watching the film?" Will demands and Steve just shrugs.

"Look I'm easily distracted alright, they're too long." Steve whines. "I'm mostly watching it so I can impress Robin with my knowledge tomorrow." He says and Will just huffs. 

"She won't be impressed by anything you can remember" Will tells him and Steve just groans in disappointment. "When did you and Robin get together?" Will asks after a pause and Steve just stares at him. 

"Me and Robin aren't dating." He says and Will laughs, but then looks over at him and realises he's not joking. "Seriously. She's my best friend and I love her to pieces, but we're not going to date." Steve explains, but that makes Will look even more confused. 

"Why not?" He asks and Steve deeply regrets getting into this conversation. 

"Well, friendship and romance are just different? Like, have you ever dated anyone?" He asks and Will shakes his head.

"I'm not really interested in girls." He says quietly. 

Steve pauses for a minute, deciding whether or not to dig into that conversation. "Boys?" He asks cautiously and sees Will freeze in his peripheral vision. 

"What?" Will asks, voice sounding shaky.

Steve shuffles slightly, while he tries to find the right words that won't scare him off. "Some people are gay, so not all boys are interested in girls, which is fine." Steve tells him carefully, purposefully keeping his eyes on the TV rather than looking at Will. "Or some people are ...bisexual, and interested in both." He says, feeling his heart rate increase and having to pause before actually saying the word. Will just goes quiet and they keep watching the film in silence.

"I think I might be gay." Will stutters out, breaking the silence that had formed between them. Steve looks over at him from the TV and can see the tension in his body, like he is fully prepared to bolt. 

Steve smiles supportively, "That's cool. I'm very proud of you for telling me." He says and Will still looks wary and like he can't quite believe this is actually happening, but he is slowly starting to untense again. 

"You… don't think it's unnatural or weird?" He cautiously asks, picking at the seam of his jeans. 

"No! If anyone ever tells you it's wrong, you tell me and I will find them and fight them for you." Steve tells him and Will let's out a surprised laugh. 

"You probably wouldn't win." He jokes. 

Steve gasps in mock outrage, "How dare you! I have won a fight!" He says and Will laughs. 

"One." Will comments. 

Steve side-eyes him. "Yea well didn't your mother ever teach you not to get into fights?" Steve says sulking. 

Will scrunches up his face as if in thought. "Well yea, but also that if you have to fight, you should win." He says, making Steve roll his eyes at Mrs Byer's life mottos. 

By the time the closing credits are running, the bag of popcorn is long gone and they are both slouched right down on the sofa. "So did you like it?" Will asks. 

Steve contemplates it. "Yea, it was fun. Lots of lightsabers, guns and those Ewoks! So cute!" He says enthusiastically.

Will groans and puts his head in his hands. "I almost wish you didn't like it now." Will grumbles, making Steve laugh. 

Startling them out of their conversation is the click of the front door lock. It creaks as it opens and they both sit up, watching intently. They both let out sighs of relief when a ruffled looking Jonathan comes into sight. "Man you scared the life out of us!" Steve exclaims, running his hand through his hair anxiously.

Jonathan looks startled, "Sorry." He murmurs. 

"Didn't think you'd be back this early." Steve continues and Jonathan looks slightly uncomfortable. 

"Yea… well work was stressful and I didn't feel like staying out late." Jonathan says shrugging. 

"Come sit then." Steve says patting the sofa next to him. Jonathan sighs and trudges over, collapsing down onto the seat next to Steve. He closes his eyes and sinks back into the seat. "Hard day?" He asks and Jonathan just groans. 

"I don't know, they were just expecting things to be done that they hadn't asked for and were just generally being jerks." He sighs. 

"Ah, and being the intern you can't complain." Steve says. 

"Well that's not fair." Will says angrily. 

"Hey it's okay bud, just a fact of life unfortunately. Bosses suck." Jonathan says, leaving Will looking sad. 

"What about Nancy, weren't you going out with her afterwards?" Will asks, causing Jonathan to look at Steve with a wide, panicked expression. 

"Chill, it's fine. I'm not going to go psycho on you over my ex." Steve says with a grin. He understands why Jonathan expects that reaction from him, but it still feels like a punch in the gut. 

Jonathan is still eyeing him warily, but cautiously starts telling Will about his date. "She wanted to go somewhere nice really, but I just didn't have the energy to dress up all nice and deal with people. Not to mention payday isn't till next week, so I just can't afford it." He says. 

"You should have brought her here and stuck a movie or something on." Will tells him and Jonathan chuckles half-heartedly. 

"Romantic." He states sarcastically. 

"He's right man, at least you'd be spending time together." Steve adds, but notices that Jonathan is clearly trying to avoid eye contact with him. "Okay what was the real problem?" Steve asks watching Jonathan intently. 

He shuffles about a bit, clearly procrastinating answering him. "Look, she didn't want to come here alright?" Jonathan says getting pissed off. 

"Why?" Steve asks ignoring his raised voice.

"Because… she knew you were here. She thought it would be weird." Jonathan admits and Steve's irritation vanishes. 

"Oh." He says softly. 

Will looks between the two of them, then gets up squeezing Jonathan's shoulder as he walks past, going into his room. 

"I'm sorry." Steve says and Jonathan just scoffs. 

"It's not your fault. Annoyingly you've been nothing but helpful." Jonathan says. 

Steve snorts. "Easier when you could hate me?" He asks and Jonathan just looks away. "Look man, just forget about it all tonight, chill out, then tomorrow you can figure it all out." Steve tells him. 

Jonathan just sighs. "I can't. There's too much that needs doing." He says going to get up.

"Sit." Steve says pushing him back down on the sofa. 

Jonathan glares at him. "Look I have responsibilities, I can't just sit here." Jonathan snaps. 

"Okay, what can you not do tomorrow?" Steve demands. 

"Look things need cleaning and tidying and Will needs dinner, I can't just sit here." Jonathan says anxiously. 

"Look you can clean tomorrow, when you've sorted your head out." Steve tells him calmly "and god if dinner is the only other problem, I can do that." He continues. 

Jonathan snorts. "You? Cook?" He says in disbelief. 

"People's lack of faith in me is just rude." Steve complains "I've been cooking for myself since I was like 12, I've had a lot of practise."

Jonathan stops laughing and looks at him intently. "All the time?" He asks seriously.

Steve shrugs. "Mostly. I mean occasionally if they're home my parents might order in takeaway?" He reminisces. "So just let me help, okay?" He says getting up from the sofa and glaring at Jonathan when he goes to get up too. 

"Fine." Jonathan says giving in and putting his hands up jokingly. Steve grabs the radio and puts that on, while he rummages around in the Byer's kitchen for supplies. "You want any help?" Jonathan calls from the sofa. 

"Don't you dare get up!" Steve jokes. He hums along to the radio and gets cooking. Once everything is mostly cooking he glances over at Jonathan and sees that he has put his feet up on the coffee table and it sounds like he might be snoring. He shakes his head at him and gets back to cooking. 

Once it's ready to serve, Steve leans over the back of the sofa next to Jonathan, noticing how much more relaxed he looks than most times he's seen him. But then they do have a habit of not meeting at the best times. "Jonathan." He says quietly. "Time to wake up." He says softly. 

Jonathan starts to stir. "Huh?" He murmurs sleepily. 

"Food's ready." Steve says cheerily. 

"Shit did I fall asleep?" He blearily asks, rubbing at his eyes. 

"You did." Steve chuckles. Jonathan gets up and stumbles over to the table while Steve calls Will in from his room. 

As soon as they're all sat down with food, Will quickly digs in and starts telling them about the party's plans for the weekend and their upcoming D&D campaign. Jonathan is a bit slower, having just woken up, but still contributing bits. Steve looks over at him and smiles as he looks a bit better than when he first walked through the door. Jonathan glances up and Steve quickly looks away, feeling like he's been caught doing something he shouldn't. Jonathan opens his mouth to say something but is interrupted by the door opening. "Hello boys!" Joyce calls, coming in and goes around the table giving the boys kisses on their foreheads. "Nice to see you Steve." She says and leans in to kiss his forehead too, making his face flush bright red. Both Jonathan and Will snigger at this. 

Steve clears his throat, pretending that nothing happened. "There's extra in the pan if you haven't eaten yet." He says studiously avoiding eye contact with the others. 

"Oh! You are thoughtful!" Joyce says brightly, ruffling his hair and going to grab some food. 

"You made extra for Mom?" Jonathan asks quietly, leaning over the table towards him. 

Steve shrugs. "Yea? I mean it made sense." He says embarrassed. He glances up and sees Jonathan grinning at him. "Anyway, I should probably be getting back soon, I've got work tomorrow." Steve says quickly looking away from Jonathan and getting up. 

"Oh don't leave on my account." Joyce calls from the kitchen. 

"Oh of course not, but it is getting late." Steve reassures. 

"Well in that case you will have to actually come over one day and I will cook for you!" Joyce promises and Steve grins, nodding reassuringly at her. 

He goes and grabs his bag from by the TV and then waves "Bye then." He says. 

"Bye Steve." Joyce says hurrying over to him and pulling him into a hug. "Look after yourself." She said. Steve chuckles and nods with a roll of his eyes. 

"Bye Steve." Will says and actually gets up and hugs him as well. At first it's a bit cautious, as if Steve might push him away, but then he clings tightly to him. "Thanks." He murmurs into Steve's shirt, not meeting his eyes. Steve just rubs his back reassuringly. 

Once Will is sat back down Jonathan looks at Steve indecisively for a pause, then he stands up and claps him on the shoulder. "Thanks man, see you around." He says and Steve smiles heading out the door before he gets too attached to the warmth and love in that house.  

Chapter Text

Steve pulls up at the last house, turning around proudly to grin at Mike and Lucas. "Dead on half two!" and they look at him like he's crazy and just shrug.

Dustin comes running out of the door, backpack swinging on his shoulders. His grinning face appears at Steve's open window. "Nice timing man." He says, fist bumping him. He walks around the car to the passenger side and frowns when he sees Will is sat in his seat. He opens the back door instead and gets Mike to move across into the middle seat. Once seated he glares at Steve. "Are you replacing me already dude?" He demands peering over the car seats. 

"Course not, but his Mom pays me to hang out with him." Steve jokes. He turns round and shrugs at Dustin "Sorry man." 

Will gasps in outrage. "She does not! You won't accept any of it." Will replies grinning back at Steve. 

Steve flails his arms around and then shushes him. "I was trying to stop Dustin getting jealous!" Steve exclaims. 

"Man you are bad at this." Lucas states from the back seat. 

"Okay can we go we're meant to meet the girls soon!" Mike says impatiently, leaning in between the chairs. 

"Alright, alright." Steve says at his impatience. "I don't get why I'm driving you all anyway, you all have bikes." He grumbles, but starts driving anyway.  To his surprise there's no arguments coming from behind him, just silence. "Okay, what?" He asks. 

There's a heavy pause. "Well… my mom's been more paranoid with us going out, ever since we, 'got locked in the mall overnight'." Dustin says, using air quotes. 

"My parents have been the same, because Erica was with you guys." Lucas adds. 

"Even my Mom's been trying to 'spend more time with us', it's weirding me out." Mike tells them all. "Like as far as she knows we weren't even involved in the Mall." 

"Oh, and your parents trust you more with me?" Steve asks, "Do they know I was there?" He asks trying to focus on the road and not on the memories of that night. 

"No… you're just an older, more responsible friend?" Dustin says and the Mike and Lucas murmur their agreement. 

Steve chuckles sadly. "Suppose that's good. They'd never let me near you otherwise." He says. 

"They just don't know what happened, I mean my Mom trusts you." Will tells him. Steve smiles half heartedly. A heavy silence falling on the group. 

They pull up at the arcade and see Max and El leaning against the wall by the door with their bikes. They all clamber out of the car, calling greetings out. Mike and Lucas go up to their girlfriends and kiss them in greeting. "Eugh, gross." Dustin calls, walking past them and into the arcade. 

Steve and Will hang back, leaning against the car. "Couples huh." Steve says smirking and nudges Will with his elbow. He glances over at him and sees the flash of hurt cross his face as he watches them. "What's wrong?" He asks. 

"Nothing." Will says evasively, quickly looking down at his shoes and stuffing his hands in his jean pockets.

Steve looks between the couples and Will a couple times in confusion. Realisation hits him a minute later. "Oh. Mike?" He asks. He puts his arm around him in sympathy. "That sucks man." He says. 

"Don't know what you mean." Will murmurs. 

Steve just rolls his eyes and pats Will's back. "Look, I get it. Feelings are a bitch sometimes." He says, his brain helpfully conjuring up an image of Nancy and Jonathan together just to prove it's point.  Shaking that image out of his head he continues, "You ever need to vent, I'm here." He says and Will smiles. 

Dustin appears back in the doorway. "Are you guys coming or what?" He yells impatiently. Will and Steve laugh, heading into the arcade. The couples split up and follow, both holding hands and calling joking insults at Dustin. 

***

The kids have long since scattered across the machines and Steve is wandering between them all, watching them play but mostly keeping out of their way. He's leaning against one of the machines when he senses someone hovering beside him. "Hey." They say. 

Steve glances over and smirks in recognition at Jonathan. "Shirking off work are we?" He says with a grin. 

Jonathan rolls his eyes at him good naturedly. "Finished early." He says.

"Sure, I believe you." Steve says jokingly. Jonathan gasps in offence and whacks him on the arm. "Hey! No violence! We said we'd moved past this!" He says laughing in between words and batting Jonathan away. 

"Drama queen." Jonathan says shaking his head in amusement at him. 

Steve huffs. "You should have more respect for royalty." He jokes, crossing his arms over his chest. Jonathan glares at him then does a mock bow. This makes both of them start giggling. Steve looks up to see where the kids are. He sees Mike, Lucas and El crowded around Max and cheering her on, while she annihilates the high score. It takes him a minute to spot the other two, but then sees them both duck behind a machine. He looks away and in his peripheral vision he sees them peering back around and watching him and Jonathan.  He chuckles at their attempt at spying. "Hey, let's see if there's any good games upstairs." He says.

Jonathan looks at him strangely. "Why?" He asks, but Steve just gives him a gentle shove towards the stairs. 

"Because if we have to babysit, we may as well have some fun at the same time." Steve says with a grin. He strides towards the stairs without looking back. 

Jonathan gapes at him, but hurries to catch up with him once he nearly goes out of sight. "What are you doing?" He asks when he finally catches up to Steve. 

Steve just turns and grins at him. "Air hockey!" He declares, brandishing his arms wide revealing the table behind him. Jonathan raises an eyebrow at him. "Come on," Steve whines. "Bet I can beat you." He says with a smirk. 

"No way." Jonathan states. Steve looks disappointed, his smile dropping. "I'm definitely going to crush you." He says after a pause, grabbing the striker and getting into position. 

Steve grins widely at the fighting talk. "Nice talk, but which one of us actually plays sports?" He teases. 

Jonathan scoffs. "Sure but which one of us has a younger brother who loves arcades." He argues back. 

"Guess we'll see, won't we?" Steve challenges, putting the money in the machine and grabbing his own striker. 

Steve puts the money in the slot and they get into position. The buzzer goes off and they competitively hit the puck back and forth. They're pretty evenly matched, no-one scoring for a while, until Steve gets a lucky shot in. "Yes!" He cheers, but then groans when in his celebration Jonathan had snuck the puck into his goal. After this loss, Steve starts to get flustered and loses a couple of points. By the time the finishing buzzer goes, Jonathan is substantially winning. "You're a bad winner aren't you?" Steve sighs, looking at Jonathan's smug expression. 

"You mean your a sore loser?" Jonathan teases, grinning widely. 

Steve glares at him. "No. Anyway it's not fair if it's only one round." He says sulkily. 

Jonathan laughs. "Since when was that in the rules?" He exclaims. 

"Best of three goes without saying." Steve says, slight twitch of a smile on his lips. 

Jonathan gives him a look that says he knows he is full of shit. "Fine. I'll still win." He states. Steve rolls his eyes at the taunt but gets ready to go again anyway. 

Unfortunately for him both games go similarly to the first one, although he does manage to close the gap a bit on the second match. "Fine alright, your good at air hockey." Steve says reluctantly. 

"Better than you?" Jonathan teases, getting a glare from Steve in return. 

"Look if it were bowling, I'd have won. No doubt." Steve says defensively. 

Jonathan laughs. "Sure... Idiot." He says fondly, shaking his head at Steve's very 'subtle' challenge. Jonathan glances at his watch. "We should probably see what the others are up to." He says reluctantly. Steve sighs but nods. "Elevator's closest." Jonathan says, nodding over to it. 

Steve follows hesitantly, feeling something in his chest tighten. "But the stairs…" he says, sentence drifting off as he doesn't quite know what he's trying to say. Jonathan is already in the elevator waiting, so his protests are lost and he follows him in. As soon as the door closes he feels his stomach drop as the floor goes down. "No, no, no, I can't do this." He says starting to panic. His breathing is getting laboured and he backs against the wall, arms clinging to his chest.

"Steve? Are you okay?" Jonathan asks concerned. Steve doesn't respond, blood pumping too loudly in his ears. The elevator dings as it reaches the ground floor and the door open. Steve stumbles out of the door and sinks to the floor in the corner. Jonathon follows him out and slowly crouches in front of him. "Steve. It's okay. We're at the arcade, with Will and his friends. You're safe." He tells him calmly. 

Steve's breathing slowly starts to calm down as Jonathan talks. "Sorry." He mutters without raising his head. 

"There's nothing to apologize for." Jonathan says softly. "I get them too." He says after a pause. Steve glances up and meets his eyes. "Most people couldn't even imagine what we've been through." He says. 

Steve smiles. "You sound like your mother." He says with a slight chuckle. 

"I can't tell if that's a compliment or not." Jonathan says and Steve just shrugs slyly. "Do you want to go somewhere quieter?" He asks. Steve's smile drops and he looks around, seemingly just noticing the crowds of people and noise around them. 

"Yeah." He says after a pause. "Make my excuses to the others will you?" He asks clambering up and eyeing up the door to the exit. 

"Idiot. I'm coming with you." Jonathan says shaking his head at him. Steve stares at him like a deer caught in the headlights. "Come on, we'll just tell 'em we're leaving." He says, searching the nearby machines for any of the kids. 

"Jonathan! How long have you been here?" Will says running up to him, as if him and Dustin hadn't been spying on them when he arrived. 

"Half an hour or so? We were upstairs." Jonathan mumbles, his face flushing red awkwardly. 

Dustin stares at him in disbelief, eyeing up the two of them. "You okay Steve?" He asks, making Steve squirm under the attention. His hands are stuffed in his pockets and he knows his eyes are probably bloodshot, so he's not looking his best. 

Thankfully Jonathan saves him from answering, as he's struggling to hold himself together as it is. "He's not feeling great, so I was gonna take him home if you guys are alright to make your way home?" He says, successfully avoiding eye contact with both kids. 

"We'll manage." Will says, giving them both a look like he doesn't believe them but can't quite figure out where the lie is. 

"We have to walk?" Dustin whines. Quickly being elbowed by Will. "But yea feel better soon buddy." He adds as an afterthought. 

"See you later then alright?" Jonathan says and Will nods. He turns to Steve. "Let's go then." He says putting his hand on Steve's lower back, leading him out of the arcade. They get nearly out the door when Jonathan realises what he's doing and quickly pulls his hand away. Face turning a bright shade of red and stuffing his hands tightly into his pockets. 

They get to Steve's car and he rummages in his pocket for the keys. "You are not driving." Jonathan states, once the keys have been located. Steve sighs and chucks them over to Jonathan without a fight. The drive back goes in silence. Steve curled up in the passenger seat, staring blankly out of the window. The radio plays softly and Jonathan tries very hard to concentrate on the car and not keep glancing over at Steve.  "Your house or mine?" He asks when they get close to the junction to their respective sides of the city. 

There's a pause before Steve answers. "Yours." He says quietly. The silence falls over them again as Jonathan turns towards his house. 

Once there Steve follows Jonathan in and through into his room, collapsing on his back in the bed and closing his eyes. Jonathan puts a Talking Heads record on and looks over at Steve. "Stop standing there staring at me." Steve mumbles without opening his eyes. 

Jonathan startles. "I'm not!" He says panicked. After a slight pause he calms down. "Your eyes are closed anyway." He says. 

Steve chuckles. "Just proved my point didn't ya." He says and Jonathan sighs in resignation. Steve shuffles over on the bed and pats the space next to him. "I don't bite." He says cracking an eye open to smirk at Jonathan. 

He blushes, but after a moment's hesitation joins him lying on the bed. "Happy now?" He asks petulantly. 

"Yea, I like being by people." Steve says softly. 

"Even me?" Jonathan says unconvinced. 

Steve turns his head and looks at him. "Much as it's hard to believe from our history, I actually like your company." He says smiling. 

"Weirdo." Jonathan jokes, closing his eyes and relaxing into the mattress. 

Steve scoffs. "Well my social circle has shrunk rather dramatically recently. I mean god, I think Robin is the first person to actually like me for me." He says. 

Jonathan freezes. He glances over at Steve and sees him smiling at just the thought of her. His stomach drops and he wishes that someone talked about him like that. "Your lucky to have her then." He says softly. 

"I am." Steve says softly. "At least something good came of being captured and tortured by Russians." He says, trying to joke but it comes out choked. 

"Fuck. You really went through hell together didn't you?" Jonathan asks cautiously. Steve murmurs in agreement, but can't get any words out. "Is that why you couldn't be in the elevator?" He asks. 

There's a silence when Steve doesn't reply, but Jonathan doesn't push. "I thought I was going back there. Stupid right?" He says quietly. 

Jonathan turns onto his side to face him, although Steve won't meet his eye. "Steve. You got captured and tortured by Russian soldiers, I think the odd panic attack is normal. You've got to give yourself a break." He says softly. Steve finally turns and meets his eyes, assessing his sincerity. Once he realises he isn't making fun of him, he smiles. 

They both shift onto their backs, sides pressed together on the narrow bed. They lie their quietly, listening to the music playing in the background. "I can't believe you chose this moment to inflict your weird music on me." Steve jokes. 

"Hey! You just have no taste." Jonathan argues, elbowing him in the side. 

"Fucking rude you are." Steve says shoving him back, both of them laughing when Jonathan nearly falls off the bed. 

Chapter Text

Robin was sat behind the counter, again, with her feet propped up on the counter as the video store hadn't had a customer in hours. She was alternating between flicking bits of popcorn from the "damaged" bag at Steve, who was on the floor against the desk, and munching on them herself. He was trying to catch them in his mouth but failing dreadfully, leading to most of them ending up on or in his shirt. 

She jumps and almost falls out of her seat when the bell to the door rings, causing her popcorn to end up on the floor. "Fuck!" Steve exclaims under his breath as the kernels rain down onto him. 

"Are you okay?" A soft voice asks and Robin looks up from Steve to the eyes of a stunning girl about her own age, with shoulder length wavy hair, freckles and bright green eyes.

In a panic she stands up and pushes Steve back down from where he was trying to get up. "I'm fine! You just startled me that's all." She blurts out, immediately feeling her cheeks heating up.

"Okay." The girl replies slightly cautiously and there's a loaded silence until Steve elbows Robin in the shin to kick start her brain again.

"Ooh! Right, so how can I be of assistance to you today then?" Robin asks with clearly a bit too much enthusiasm as she can feel Steve shaking against her legs in amusement. So she just kicks him in the ribs to get him to shut up.

"So… I may have got a bit obsessed with this video and I completely forgot that I was supposed to return it yesterday, is there any chance you could overlook the late fee just this once?" The girl asks and Robin swears she's fluttering her eyelashes at her and by God does it work on her. 

"I suppose I could pretend it got overlooked in last night's returns, if it would mean it would get us a regular returning customer?" She says with what she hopes is her best smile. 

"Seriously! Would you?" The girl exclaims and pulls her into a hug over the counter, engulfing Robin in the smell of her apple shampoo. "Thank you so much! I've only just moved here so I don't really know anyone, so I'll probably be needing your rentals for a while." The girl says slightly shyly. 

"That's good to hear. Let's have the video then." Robin says, secretly crossing her fingers behind her back in the hope that she has at least some decent taste in films. 

The girl slides the video over to her and Robin gasps. "The apartment! That's literally like my favourite film, isn't it amazing?" She exclaims. 

She watches as the girls eyes widen, "It is! I've watched it enough now that I could probably quote it word for word." She says grinning widely at her. 

"That is so refreshing, most people around here are just trying to get the newest cinema release." Robin tells her, grinning when it gets a laugh out of the girl. 

"Yeah the guy that rented it to me hadn't heard of it, didn't have a clue where to find it." She replies grinning. 

Robin rolls her eyes. "Let me guess, around our age? Big fancy hair?" She asks ignoring Steve flicking her leg in revenge. 

"Think so?" The girl answers uncertainly. 

"Yeah he knows bugger all about film culture. Never take advice from him." She jokes, relishing in the indignation she knows Steve is feeling. 

The girl laughs and leans in conspiratorially. "I'll have to make sure I only come in when you're working then." She says and Robin sucks in a breath. "So what else would you recommend then?" The girl asks leaning on the counter top. She smiles sweetly at Robin and her heart beats wildly. 

"I mean… my other favourite would be Children of Paradise? But that's in French." Robin stutters out. Face flushed in embarrassment at her outburst. 

"Oh that's not a problem, my mother is French so I'm fluent. I'd love to rent it" She explains and follows behind as Robin excitedly shows her to the section of the store with the film she recommended. 

By the time they get back to the counter, Steve has brushed himself off and is attempting to casually lean against the door to the backroom. "My break's over Robin, hope you've not been too lonely without me." He says grinning from ear to ear and eyeing up the two of them. "Hey there, name's Steve and you are?" He asks with his trademark smirk. 

"Lucille" She replies looking slightly uncertain. After a pause, she turns to face Robin. "Lucy to my friends." She says with a shy smile. 

"Pretty name, hope we'll be seeing more of you." He says winking at her. 

"Ignore him, he's an insufferable flirt." Robin says shoving him away from the till. 

"Ooh come on, the ladies love me." Steve says with a laugh.

"Nope. Do I need to re-do the chart? Because we already established that you suck." Robin argues back.

"Look I was at a disadvantage! How was I supposed to pick anyone up in that stupid outfit?" Steve exclaims. 

"Outfit?" Lucy asks, shocking them out of their bickering. Both of them swiveling around to face her. 

"Oh, yea we both worked at Scoops Ahoy before here. The uniform was a lovely sailor outfit. He looked like Popeye!" Robin explains. 

"They made us wear a hat! Ruined my hair." Steve sulks. Robin pulls an exaggerated sad face at him. 

Lucy laughs. "So you've worked together for a while then?" She tentatively asks. 

Steve and Robin share a look. "Only a few months really." Robin tells her. 

"Can't get rid of me now!" Steve jokes, resting his elbow on her shoulder and leaning his weight on her. 

Robin shoves him off with a laugh. "Who was it that convinced Kevin to hire you Dingus? I could have got rid of you if I wanted." She jokes. Steve just grins wider and raises his eyebrows at her. "God knows why." She says shaking her head at him, but she's still smiling at him. 

Steve picks the video up and deals with the rental and rings it up. "Well I guess I should be off." Lucy says shuffling on her feet and adjusting her bag.

"Nice meeting you." Robin says softly. 

"You too." Lucy replies and then turns to leave, with one last glance back at them. 

"Lucy! Erm so Steve's having a party next Friday night and you said you don't know anyone, so erm, if you wanted to come along?" Robin exclaims, rambling nervously. 

"I am?!" Steve asks scrunching up his face in surprise. 

"Well less of a party, not really our scene, more of a gathering right?" Robin continues, elbowing Steve in the side to get him to agree with her.

"You're more than welcome to come Lucy." Steve says interrupting her rambling nonsense. 

"I mean it would be nice to meet some people, but I really don't want to intrude." Lucy says, glancing between the two of them. 

"It'll be nice! I won't have to listen to him whine about the sorry state of his love life if you're there" Robin says hopefully. 

"Hey!" Steve exclaims, "It's not like yours is any better." He argues. 

Robin gives him an unamused glare. "Dude, yours is a mess." She states. Steve just groans and sinks down onto the swivel chair. 

"Well... I am free then? So I could pop over" Lucy agrees cautiously, a slight hopeful smile on her face. 

Steve perks up, grabbing a bit of paper out of the mess on their counter and jots down his address for her. "Friday at seven then?" Robin confirms, handing over the piece of paper. 

"Yea okay, see you then." She replies, their fingers brushing as she takes the paper from her. 

As soon as Lucy is out of sight of the store Robin collapses onto the chair. Her face is flushed bright red and she is grinning widely. "Smooth Robin. Who knew you had it in you." Steve says proudly. 

"Thanks dingus. Means a lot." Robin agrees.

"Good taste too, she's very pretty." Steve says smirking at her. 

"She was! So gorgeous!" Robin sighs. 

"Although, you know neither of have any friends to invite over on Friday." Steve contemplates. 

"Shit. We must know some people? Right?" Robin asks him panicking. 

"Apart from twelve year olds, no." Steve replies and Robin sinks onto the counter groaning. 

Chapter Text

Between the two of them they had just dealt with the usual weekend rush of movie renters and finally had a moment of peace. The shelves were starting to look emptier and certainly messier than they had this morning. "Damn, I hate weekends." Robin comments swiveling around on her stool.  

"I know right? Damn people showing off that they aren't working." Steve adds. 

Robin laughs. "Not that I'll be going anywhere anytime soon." She says. 

Steve winces in sympathy. "Were your parents really mad?" He asks cautiously. 

"Well my mom was alternating between, 'she slept round a BOY'S house' to oh gosh 'she SLEPT round a boy's house'." She says mimicking her mom and her conflicting emotions of excitement and fear.  "It was quite amusing to watch." She states, making Steve laugh. 

"Wow, and your dad?" He asks. 

Robin pauses, making Steve look at her questioningly. "He wanted to hunt you down." She says and Steve's eyes widen comically large. 

"He what?!" He hisses at her. 

Robin laughs at his panicked expression. "Chill, I calmed him down. But... maybe steer clear of him for a while." She says. 

Steve slumps back in the chair, groaning in defeat. "I can't believe it, your parents hate me." He says. 

"Forbidden love." Robin teases. 

Steve grasps at his heart dramatically. "I'll wait for you my love!" He cries. 

"But parting is such sweet sorrow, how could I bare to be apart from you" Robin says dramatically. 

Steve laughs. "You're such a nerd." He says fondly. 

"You love me." Robin teases and Steve just smiles at her softly. 

They are interrupted by someone clearing their throat. Both Steve and Robin immediately snap to attention and flush bright red. Their eyes widening in embarrassment when they see Nancy and Jonathan standing awkwardly in front of the counter. "Sorry," Nancy starts saying, "we didn't want to interrupt but…" she says, her sentence drifting off into nothingness as she assesses the two of them. 

"No problem, nice to see you Nance." Steve says awkwardly. "Jonathan." He says nodding his head in acknowledgement. 

"Nice to properly meet you guys, I'm Robin." She says trying to be friendly, holding out her hand to shake. 

"I know." Nancy says, glancing down at the name tag on her shirt. 

Robin's smile falters and awkwardly pulls her hand back when Nancy makes no move to take it. "And I'm sorry about last time Jonathan, I was hungover and grumpy. I swear normally I'm nicer." She explains to him. 

Steve scoffs jokingly at this. "Last time?" Nancy asks, distracting Robin from insulting Steve back. 

Steve chuckles. "Yea Johnny boy here interrupted our hangover, to see if I could look after Will." He explains. 

Nancy gives Jonathan a weird look, which he quickly looks away from. "Hey it's fine, my fault." Jonathan says with a shrug. Robin smiles gratefully at him. 

"So how can we help you?" Steve asks, running his hand through his hair nervously. 

"Oh we wanted to rent this." Nancy says, handing over a video of Footloose. 

Steve groans at the sight of it. Robin glares at him in warning, but he just pulls a face at her. "It's so boring." He says. 

Robin sighs. "What have I said about giving your opinions on movies to customers?" She teases. 

"I know, I know, but god." Steve says. 

"It's fun. Like it's not that bad." Robin tells him. 

"There's no action in it!" Steve argues. 

"It's not an action film!" Robin says laughing. "Anyway you fell asleep halfway through!" She accuses. 

"Exactly!" Steve says and they lock eyes and glare at each other. This then turns into a staring contest and they start pulling faces at each other, trying to make the other laugh and blink first. 

Nancy clears her throat again, interrupting their antics for the second time of the day. Jonathan chuckles. "You're really selling this movie for us." He jokes. 

Nancy glares at him. "Jonathan." She hisses at him. 

Steve laughs. "That's me, master salesman." He jokes. Nancy looks confused at his reaction and keeps glancing between them. 

Robin snorts. "Ha. You struggled to rent 'The Apartment' to Lucy." She teases. 

"I couldn't find it alright! I swear you'd moved it." Steve says defending himself. 

Nancy and Jonathan share a look of confusion. "Who's Lucy?" They ask cautiously. 

Robin goes bright red at this question and opens her mouth to reply but closes it again when no words come out. Steve grins widely. "She's Robin's new friend." He says. 

Robin whacks him on the arm. "Shut up." She murmurs, making Steve burst out laughing. "She's going to think I'm such a weirdo after Friday." She groans, hiding her head in her hands. 

"What's happening Friday?" Jonathan asks, making Robin just groans harder. 

"Robin invited her to a party at mine, which by the way wasn't planned, and we have no friends so there will only be the three of us and that's weird." Steve says, still grinning manically. 

Nancy and Jonathan just stare at them weirdly. "You must really want to be her friend." Jonathan says after a pause. This sets Steve off laughing again. He puts his arm around Robin and she hides her face in his chest. Unbeknownst to Nancy and Jonathan, she uses this to colourfully swear at Steve under her breath. 

"So what do you think, is it weirder to have just the three of us, or shall we invite the kids over?" Steve asks them still chuckling. 

"You are not giving them alcohol!" Nancy says outraged, slamming her hands down onto the counter top. 

"Hey not that kind of party, chill. We'll just stick some movies on and order pizza." Steve says reassuring her. 

"Then yea, invite the kids. Otherwise it'll be a third wheeling situation." Jonathan says, shuffling awkwardly and not meeting their eyes. 

"Oh god I hadn't considered that!" Steve says "Those kids had better come." 

Jonathan laughs at Steve's horror. "I'll talk to Will about it tonight alright? I'm sure they'll come if you're offering them pizza." He tells them. 

"Thanks man." Steve says gratefully. "Hey, would you two fancy coming along?" He asks, cautiously glancing between the two of them, before settling his gaze on Jonathan. 

Jonathan smiles and Steve thinks for a second that he's going to say yes. "Sorry, we're going out for a meal with my parents Friday night." Nancy says, bursting his bubble of hope.

Jonathan looks over at her in confusion. "Is that this week?" He asks. 

"Yes." She says "I told you a few days ago to make sure you weren't working!" 

Jonathan looks panicked for a minute, then relief crosses his face. "That's right, I think I did mention it to them at work." He says and Nancy smiles. "Sorry then, we won't be there." He says apologetically turning back to Steve and Robin. 

Steve shrugs, trying to stop the smile from slipping from his face. "No sweat, hope you have a nice time." He tells them. 

Robin glances at him in confusion and pulls a weird face at him, which he just ignores. "Anyway, let me put this through for you." Robin says picking up the video and scanning it into the till. 

"Thanks." Nancy says gratefully, handing over the money for it. "Anyway, we should probably be off." She says, grabbing Jonathan's hand and smiling at the two of them, but it doesn't quite meet her eyes. 

"Yea, I'll see you around." Jonathan says, sounding reluctant to leave. 

Steve bites his lip and studiously avoids looking at their joined hands. "Sure, see you." He says softly. They turn to leave. "Oh and remember to tell Will about the party! Friday at seven, my place." He calls out. Jonathan turns at his outburst. He smiles and nods, before waving and they both walk out of the store. 

Steve slumps down into his chair and can feel Robin's piercing eyes locked on him. "What the fuck was that?" Robin demands and he sighs. 

"I don't know what you mean." Steve says evasively. 

Robin scoffs. "Course not, inviting them along was purely you being friendly." She says disbelievingly. 

Steve scrunches his face up in confusion and looks at her in confusion. "I do want to be their friend, I know it's weird but I do." He says trying to convince her. 

"Dingus, I know what you flirting looks like when I see it." Robin states putting her hands on her hips and staring him down. At his startled expression, she rolls her eyes at him. "Don't even try and deny it, you went all puffed up and kept playing with your hair as soon as they came in." She tells him. 

Realisation crosses his face and he puts his head in his hands. "Oh my god I was wasn't I?" He breathes out in shock. 

Robin laughs at him. "So much for being over Nancy Wheeler." She teases. 

Steve is silent for a minute, staring down at his shoes. "I wasn't flirting with Nancy." He says quietly, not looking up from the floor. 

"We just established that you were…" she says trailing off as she realises what he meant. "Oh." She murmurs. There's a pause and Steve finally looks up and meets her gaze. They stare at each other for a minute and then Robin breathes out a laugh. "Man you sure do pick 'em." she says with a grin. 

Steve let's out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding and smiles in his relief. "Fucking rude, I have great taste." He says shaking his head at her in amusment. 

A laugh escapes her lips again. "Seriously? Sure. Nothing at all complicated about having a crush on the guy your girlfriend left you for." She says sarcastically. 

He glares at her. "Well I mean, when you say it like that…" he murmurs in embarrassment. 

After hopping up onto the counter, she smirks at him. "How would you say it then?" She asks, grinning widely at him. 

A flush spreads across his cheeks. "He's…. I mean… he's really cool and we actually get on really well." He explains softly. Robin basically squeals at this answer and Steve leaps up and puts a hand over her mouth. "Shhhh." He hisses at her. 

Once he's moved his hand, she grins at him and her feet jiggle excitedly, bashing against the side of the counter. "You really like him don't you?" She says. 

Steve hides his face in his hands and groans. "Shut up." He murmurs. To his relief, the shop door bell goes off saving him from further interrogation. "What a shame, can't talk now." He says jokingly. She pouts at him and mouths 'later' at him. 

Chapter Text

Steve pulls up at the Byer's house, tired out from his day at work but looking forward to an evening with friends. He knocks on the door and waits, but doesn't get a quick response. He pauses, then after a minute of awkwardly shuffling on the doorstep, knocks again. He is surprised when the door is then quickly thrown open and Mrs Byers is grinning at him. "Steve!" She says happily, "Sorry I wasn't expecting you yet." She says, ushering him inside. 

Steve flushes and looks at his feet. "Sorry. I know I'm early, I'm not intruding am I?" He asks nervously. 

Joyce shakes her head at him. "Course not dear. Jonathan and Will aren't back from the Wheeler's yet though." She tells him, bustling back into the kitchen to keep her eye on the food. 

Steve follows her in and leans against the counter. "Can I help at all?" He asks, watching her go from one pan to another. 

"No it's all under control." She says, just as one of the saucepans starts bubbling over. Steve quickly grabs a tea towel and lifts the pan off the heat. "Oh gosh, sorry. Maybe an extra pair of hands would be helpful." She says bashfully, making Steve chuckle. 

The chaos in the kitchen quickly subsides with some help and they cook companionly. "When are they meant to back?" He asks as he stirs the food in the pan. 

Joyce looks up and glances over at the clock. "They said they'd try and be back by now." She says worriedly. She pauses and thinks. "But they probably just got chatting, you know what those kids are like." She adds, smiling at Steve. "When are your parents expecting you back?" She asks. 

Steve looks away from her, staring down at the food instead. "They're still away, so it doesn't matter." He says, trying to sound unbothered. 

Steve can feel her eyes on him, but doesn't look up. "They don't know what they're missing." Joyce says, leaving no room for arguments or doubts. He glances up at her and feels a slight twitch of a smile on his lips. "You're always welcome in this house, okay? No matter what." She says and he can feel his emotions welling up inside him. As if she can sense this, she pulls him into a hug. They hear a car pull up in the driveway and see the glare of the headlights through the window. "Looks like the boys are home." Joyce says peering through the window to make sure it is them. Steve quickly blinks away any moisture in his eyes and straightens up. They both jump as the door bangs open and Jonathan storms through the room, going straight to his room and slamming that door behind him. Steve and Joyce share a worried look and then both snap to attention when Will walks through the door, looking very dejected. "Oh honey, what happened?" Joyce asks, hurrying over to him. 

Will snuffles. "Him and Nancy got in a fight." He murmurs clinging to his Mom, who softly murmurs reassurances to him. 

Steve watches them comfort each other and feels like he's intruding on a private moment. He glances down the hall towards Jonathon's room and internally wars with himself as to whether he should go and talk to him. Conflicted, he cautiously walks down the hall and knocks on his door. "I don't want to talk about it Mom!" Jonathan yells from inside. 

Steve pushes the door open anyway. "Not your Mom." He says awkwardly. 

Jonathan had clearly been pacing, but now he freezes and stares at him in shock. "Steve?" He asks in confusion. 

"Hey." Steve says softly. Eyeing Jonathan up and deciding the best way he can help. Steve watches as Jonathan starts pacing again. "You look like you want to punch someone." He comments. 

Jonathan rounds on him, getting up in his face. "Why do you think I wanted to be alone?" He yells at him. Knuckles going white as he clenched them tightly into fists. 

Steve just watches him calmly but cautiously, as he doesn't actually want to get punched again. "It's okay. Trust me, I get it. Sometimes you just need to smash stuff to get it out of your system." He tells him, standing his ground. 

They stare at each other in silence, then Jonathan scoffs. "Like what?" He says kicking a pile of clothes over. 

"I find beer bottles work pretty well myself." Steve says, leaning against the door frame. 

Jonathan looks at him in disbelief. "Oh really, sounds great." He says sarcastically. 

Steve ignores his sarcasm and smiles. "Come on then." He says walking out into the hallway. Hoping he's judged him right and he will follow.

There's a long pause when he thinks he's fucked it all up and Jonathan will just slam the door behind him. "Where are you going?" He hears Jonathan call after him, and he breathes a sigh of relief. 

He turns round and gives Jonathan a wide grin. "To go smash stuff of course." He says. Steve continues walking through the house and hears Jonathan cautiously following along behind him. In the living room he sees Will and Joyce sat on the sofa watching them intently. "Dinner will have to be another night Mrs Byers, me and Jonathan are gonna go out." He tells her, giving her a reassuring smile. 

"No problem dear, look after yourselves." She says, clearly watching Jonathan's every move even though he is looking anywhere but at her and Will. 

Steve grabs Jonathan's wrist, holding back a flinch when Jonathan spins towards him with a glare. Jonathan's expression softens slightly after a minute and lets Steve pull him out of the house. He unlocks the car and they get in, turning the music up high. They pull away from the house and sit in silence while Steve carefully drives along the empty roads. 

He pulls up onto the drive and kills the engine, leaving a heavy silence in its place. Steve opens his door and gets out. Jonathan follows after a pause and slams the door shut. He skulks up towards the house, with his hands stuffed tightly in his hoodie pockets. "Nah, it's this way." Steve calls out after him, gesturing into the woods next to the house. 

"Seriously?" Jonathan says, staring at him in disbelief. 

Steve just ignores him and keeps walking. After rolling his eyes, Jonathan follows and the walk into the edge of the woods. A few minutes later Steve comes to a halt and Jonathan looks around in confusion, trying to figure out what is special about this specific spot. Steve goes rummaging about in the bushes and pulls out a box. "No-one ever comes around here so I used it to store the beer bottles after a party. After a while I just started coming out here when I needed to vent." Steve explains, while pulling a tarpaulin off and grabbing beer bottles out of the box.  

Jonathan shuffles about all the while Steve says this, anxiously staring into the dark shadows between the trees. "Okay, so what now?" He asks. 

Steve finally turns at looks at him. "What need an instruction manual?" He says sarcastically. Before Jonathan can form a reply, Steve grasps a beer bottle and throws it with practised ease at a nearby tree. The glass shatters with a satisfying clatter and the pieces rain down onto the bare ground. The noise makes Jonathan jump slightly but a part of him relishes in the destruction. Before he can ask, Steve is holding another bottle out to him, an expectant look on his face. He eyes the offering for a minute, then cautiously wraps his fingers around the bottle neck pulling it out of Steve's hand. He can feel Steve's eyes on him, but he just contemplates the tree in front of him. He swallows, then half heartedly throws it at the tree. It thuds against the bark, clattering to the ground still in one piece. "You gotta mean it man, put some anger behind it." Steve comments and Jonathan flushes at the failed throw. A second bottle is handed to him and this time he lets his frustration out and properly throws it against the tree. This time the glass shatters into pieces. Steve cheers and Jonathan feels a rush of adrenaline go through him. He grabs another bottle and lobs it at the tree with a cry of frustration. 

Him and Steve alternate throwing the bottles between themselves for a while until Jonathan feels like he can breathe again and a carpet of glass surrounds the tree. "Fuck." Jonathan swears, backing up a few steps and sinking to the ground against a tree. "What's even the point of trying, I'm gonna end up as a waste of space like my dad no matter what I do." He says curling in on himself. 

There's a beat of silence, where the only noise is from the wind whistling through the leaves. "You are nothing like that man." Steve says firmly, sinking down the tree to sit next to him. 

Jonathan scoffs. "Look at me. I'm never going to be able to afford to leave this fucking town or make something of myself. I'm out here smashing bottles because I had a fight with my girlfriend, it's not far to sink." He rants, voice choking up. 

"You can still make something of yourself here, especially with your internship? And even if you're not famous or whatever, who cares. That's not what's important in life." Steve says softly. 

"God Steve I'm not even aiming for famous! Just having a stable job that pays all the bills is all I can even dream of." He sighs. 

Steve shuffles across the ground till his side is pressed against Jonathan's. "There's nothing wrong with that. My dad has a high paying, important job and you think he's happy? I know it's easy to say when we've never struggled for money but it really doesn't solve all your problems." He explains, resting his head against the sharp bark behind him. 

Jonathan chokes out a laugh. "Great, so no one is happy." He says dejectedly. 

"Nah you just gotta find the people who care about you and make it worthwhile. I mean your home is bursting with love man." Steve tells him sincerely. 

Jonathan rolls his eyes in response. "I don't think it's anything special." He dismisses. 

"As someone who hasn't talked to their parents in weeks… who upon seeing the bruises on my face, sneered at me for not being man enough to be the one pulling the punches… yea it is special." Steve says, voice choking up with emotion. Once the words are out he studiously stares straight in front of him into the dark of the trees. 

He feels Jonathan shift next to him and knows that his eyes are watching him. "...as in the bruises from the Russian soldiers?" Jonathan asks after a pause. When Steve doesn't deny this, he interprets this silence as the most acknowledgment of his parents shitty behaviour that he will get at the moment. "Fuck." Jonathan swears. 

The two of them sit in silence for a while. Both of them feeling raw and exposed from the private feelings that have been put into words and shared with each other. "Do you…" Steve says breaking the silence, but trailing off without finishing. Jonathan looks over at him questioningly. "Do you want to… talk about Nancy?" Steve cautiously asks.  

Jonathan picks up a stick off the ground and starts breaking it into pieces. The silence returns for a few moments while he thinks. "I love her. God I really do." He says sincerely, "but… we've been fighting about money, work, college, scholarships, and I just don't know how to fix any of it." He continues, throwing bits of stick as he talks. 

"Trust me, I get it." Steve says humorlessly. "I loved Nancy, still do really, but god we just didn't work." He contemplates. 

This statement makes Jonathan stare down at the ground and scuff his shoes. "I guess I didn't really help either huh?" He says nervously. 

Steve chuckles. "Right. But if it makes you feel any better it was gonna happen eventually, you just sped the process up." He tells him. 

Jonathan half heartedly smiles at that. "People always make out that once you find someone you love, that all your problems are solved. But fuck I can't see how it's going to work between us anymore." He says, sounding exasperated, but also very sad. 

"Look man, the way I see it. It fucking sucks when it happens, but people change and love doesn't have to be forever, you know? You'll find new people to love. So just do what feels right to you, not what you think other people want you to do" Steve says. 

Jonathan turns to face him and stares at him in surprise. "When did you start giving good advice?" He asks in shock. "What's happened to the real Steve?" He jokes, poking him in cheek. 

In response, Steve makes a face at him. "I guess some of Robin's common sense has rubbed off on me." He says with a smirk. Jonathan doesn't reply to that, so they sit in companionable silence for a bit. "You think you're ready to go home?" He asks casually.

After a murmur of agreement they start to clamber up and dust themselves off. As they start walking back to Steve's car, Jonathan shoves his hands in his jacket pockets and stresses over going home. "Stop thinking so hard it's stressing me out." Steve comments and Jonathan glares at him. Steve rolls his eyes at him. "You haven't done anything wrong and I bet the first thing you're gonna do is apologise anyway." He says. Jonathan opens his mouth to argue, but realises he's right and he is already planning what he is going to say to make up for his earlier behaviour. They're soon back at the car and Steve unlocks it ready to drive them back. "Come on, let's get you home."